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Virginia landscaper sentenced to year in prison for covering up fatal accident

July 27, 2021 -  By

Landscaping company owner Robert Lee Strickland Jr., of Poquoson, Va., will spend a year in jail for trying to cover up a fatal hit-and-run accident by one of his crew members, Newport News, Va.’s The Daily Press reports.

On Oct. 25, 2018, the newspaper reported that Strickland’s crew member Alexander Crosby, 28, hit bicyclist Brian Leonard Utne with a Ford F-350 pickup while towing equipment to a worksite. Crosby was sentenced to four years in prison in June, three for involuntary manslaughter and one for failing to stop.

Strickland’s crime came later on the day of the fatal accident when he told Crosby to leave the scene of the accident and later fired him. Stickland then had the truck towed to a body shop to fix damage to the front end and told his worker the next day that, “as far as you know, Alex hit a deer.”

A jury convicted Strickland of felony concealment in April.

At Strickland’s sentencing hearing Wednesday, Utne’s wife, Susan Utne, questioned if her husband would have lived had Strickland or Crosby called 911 instead of covering up the accident.

“I wondered if he would have had a better chance if someone called 911 … The biggest ‘what if’ is whether Brian would be alive today without the poor choices that were made,” Utne said, according to The Daily Press.

In addition to concealment, prosecutors charged Strickland with destruction of property for a January incident while he was out on bond. In that case, prosecutors said Strickland attacked an employee’s car over a fight about a muffler that fell off a work truck, causing more than $3,000 in damage.

Strickland briefly fled from police following that incident. A judge revoked his bond after police took Strickland into custody.

Circuit Court Judge William B. Shaw sentenced Strickland to one year in prison on the concealment charge and five years, all suspended, on the property destruction charge. He also ordered Strickland to pay $3,551 to repair the car and to stay away from the Utne family and the worker whose car he damaged.

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